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Collective nouns: rules + examples
Group (or collective group) nouns are nouns that have a singular form but they describe groups of people, animals or things.
Types of collective nouns
- Groups of people: family, police, team, crew
- Groups of animals: colony, flock, herd
- Groups of things: bunch, bundle, set
Collective nouns and verb agreement
Group (or collective) nouns can take a singular verb or plural verb: The crew is/are on the ship.
We use the singular verb if we refer to a group as a single unit.
Our family is going on holiday to Spain in summer.
The herd is lying quietly in the shadow of trees.
We use the plural verb if we refer to a group as a number of individuals.
Our family are going on holiday to different places in summer.
The herd are looking in all directions. They are frightened.
The jury has just announced a decision. (= a group acting as a single unit)
The jury were not allowed to contact their families. (= a group acting as a number of individuals)
Collective nouns for animals
Here are some examples of collective nouns for groups of animals:
a flock of birds, a gaggle of geese, a brood of hens, a clutch of chicks, a host of sparrows
a herd of cows (sheep), a drove of pigs, a pack of wolves (dogs), a pride of lions, a troop of monkeys, a littre of puppies (kittens, cubs), a pod of doplhins
a school (shoal) of fish, a run of salmon, a battery of barracudas
a swarm of bees, a colony of ants, a cloud of grasshoppers, a scourge of mosquitoes
a float/bask of crocodiles (in water/on land), a lounge of lizards, a nest of snakes, a bale (dole) of turtles
Collective nouns for people
There are many collective nouns in English which refer to a group of people as a single unit or to individual members of a goup and therefore can take a singular or plural verb (compare the examples above).
family, police, team, crew, choir, board, government, committee, jury, staff, Manchester United...
We can also use the following collective nouns to talk about groups of people.
a board of directors, a caravan of travellers, a circle of friends, a flock of tourists, a tribe of Indians, a bevy of beauties, a crowd of people, a gang of youths
Collective nouns for things
Examples of the most common collective nouns to describe groups of things.
a bouquet (bunch) of flowers, a bunch of keys, a bundle of sticks, a fleet of taxis (ships), a convoy of trucks, a flight of aeroplanes (stairs), a clump of bushes, a round of drinks, a range of mountains, a pack of cards, a set of golf clubs
English nouns Countable and uncountable nouns, singular and plural nouns, group nouns, compound nouns and proper nouns.
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